Friday, January 30, 2015


From the National Catholic Register:

Joe Lombardi’s Super Bowl and Super Faith Stories 

The grandson of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach speaks of past, present and future NFL championships in light of the Catholic faith.

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions
Joe Lombardi, grandson of famed NFL coach Vince Lombardi, is the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions.
– Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions
Not many people can say their last name is on the sterling silver trophy presented each year to the best team in the NFL. However, while Joe Lombardi is one of the few who can lay claim to that honor, he is not taken in by it. The Super Bowl trophy is named after his grandfather, Vince Lombardi, who, as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, won five NFL championships.

As quarterbacks coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2010, Joe Lombardi helped his team win the trophy named after his grandfather. Now, as offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions, he hopes to win the Super Bowl again one day, but he also knows that there are more important things in life. Faith and family come before football in the Lombardi household, which prays the Angelus, the Rosary and the Diviner Mercy Chaplet on a daily basis.

Joe Lombardi, a 43-year-old father of six, spoke with Register correspondent Trent Beattie about football and Catholic traditions in anticipation of Super Bowl XLIX, set to take place on Feb. 1 between the New England Patriots and the defending-champion Seattle Seahawks.

You won a Super Bowl as the quarterbacks coach with the Saints in 2010. Was there special importance for you in winning a trophy with your grandfather’s name on it?

Winning the Super Bowl was special, but not just for me. I think everyone else on the team liked it as much as I did. People on the outside looking in might see things in a different light, but, from a coach’s perspective, you get too focused on all the work involved to notice a family name on a trophy.

I guess you could say I was carrying on a family football tradition, but the specifically Catholic traditions, which were passed on through my family as well, are the ones most important to me. I wasn’t able to meet my grandfather, since he died nine months before I was born. However, his Catholicism lives on through me, so that’s what really means the most.

Have you always been thankful for your Catholic faith?
I have not. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for people in my generation to have gotten lost in the catechetical haze of the 1970s and ’80s. Parents sent their children to Catholic schools under the assumption that they would receive a Catholic education, but that’s not what usually took place. Maybe part of it was my fault, by not being interested in hearing the truth, but there wasn’t great faith formation in the classroom.

I first started becoming truly interested in the greatness of the Catholic faith around the time I got married 15 years ago. My wife, Molly, and I were concerned about all the health dangers of contraceptive pills, so we looked into natural family planning [which the Church approves]. A priest we met with wanted us to listen to a talk on CD from Dr. Janet Smith called “Contraception: Why Not”; but we said we were already sold on the topic. He insisted that we listen to it anyway, and we were blown away by what Dr. Smith said. Even though we were on the path it recommended, our beliefs and motives were reinforced or augmented in many ways.

That was the first step toward becoming more fully Catholic?

Yes, we started looking into what the Church teaches, and our search has produced so many great results. Now, we love being immersed in Catholic traditions, including the extraordinary form of the Mass. We attend a parish that has this one Sunday a month, and the other Sundays they have the ordinary form in English, but with the priest facing ad orientem [“toward the east,” or in the same direction as the congregation] and with suitable music.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, so we should do everything we can to make it look and sound like that, rather than downplaying the fact. That’s why I find it worth the effort to search for a Mass that’s done well. It helps me to get a sharper sense of heavenly things and to pray better.

One thing that has helped me get a better sense of the Mass is a book called Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. In it, Dr. Brant Pitre gives a historical context for the sacrifice of the Calvary, which is the same as the sacrifice of the Mass. He shows what the Passover was like at the time of Jesus, why Jesus started the Eucharist during Passover, what the Jews were looking for in the Messiah and the meaning of the manna in the desert. Overall, you’re able to see that Jesus is the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies and practices.

Do you think that if people would look into the history and theology of the Mass they would get more out of it and attend it more frequently?

No question about it. It’s mind-boggling to learn what really takes place in each Mass. It’s not a random collection of man-made rituals; it’s something that originated with Jesus (and, in a sense, came before him, since it has its roots in the Old Testament), and it has been passed down to us. Each of its parts has deep meaning because they are reflections of Jesus.

One of the things I like to do is not only going to Sunday Mass, but making a day of it with the family. Instead of going our separate ways after church, we meet up with another family or two and enjoy a meal together, play with the kids, etc. I get to do this all-day thing now that the season is over, and it’s a great blessing.

Are there other Catholic family activities you enjoy? 

Our family tries to pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet every day. Marian intercession and the mercy of God are so closely related, so we’ve even started the Angelus at 6am, noon and 6pm. The first one, that early in the morning, is a challenge, but even if we pray the Angelus at 8, it’s 6 somewhere, right? Plus, no matter what time of the day it’s done, prayer is always a good thing.

It’s a privilege to be the father of a Catholic family, where you not only pass along natural life to your sons and daughters, but supernatural life, too. That’s what matters most, what’s way more important than any Super Bowl victories, however fun those may be. I try to get this across to men’s groups I talk to through Catholic Athletes for Christ’s Speakers Bureau. The Super Bowl is the attention-grabber, but the more relevant thing is to live your life according to the teachings of Jesus, which are found in their entirety in the Catholic Church.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.


Anonymous said...

Father, a very uplifting story...contrast that with a story on TODAY show this morning, a player for Seattle (forgot his name) who might become a father on Super Bowl Sunday...thanks to his girlfriend. I don't know why NBC needs to glorify that!

Jdj said...

So why do the Ignotuses of this world not get it? The "catechetical haze" still has them fogged in? Or is it just stubborn arrogance that prevents admitting mistakes? They are a dying breed, TBTG (the news from the NCR fish wrap this week attests), but one wonders how many parishes will survive the holocaust..

Carol H. said...

Thank you for sharing this, Father. It is nice to see that a person in the spotlight has learned what matters most- and is not afraid to share it with others.

Robert Kumpel said...

While I enjoyed this story and admire the fact that Joe is an old school Catholic like his grandad, WHY, do we have to start piling on Pater Ignotus? So he disagrees? So what? Does everyone have to agree with us?

I spent four years getting a degree in journalism, a great degree for those who wish to go on to become pastry chefs, but at least I learned one thing: It is far more effective to attack ideas than to attack people. Kind of like the old proverb of loving sinners and hating sin. Can't we practice that in this forum?

JusadBellum said...

"I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. ...I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life -- namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things."

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Jdj said...

Ok, Robert, I get it. So sorry for my comment. I can usually manage better restraint, but didn't this time. (Perhaps you would have had to be a parishioner at MHT, and experience the wreckage to understand, but that doesn't excuse me). Please forgive me.

Gene said...

jdj, For God's sake quit apologizing. Ignotus piled on here years ago with his captious comments, ambiguous references, ridicule of Fr. and the TLM, and his arrogant ignorance. I think restraint is way over rated...

Daniel said...

Mr. Anonymous, while it would be better for Mr. Sherman to marry his new girlfriend, any new life should be glorified. Plenty of players on that field will have caused or paid for abortions.

Gene said...

The "players on that field" are mostly thugs and felons…tattooed, barely literate freaks. The very act of watching college or pro sports supports the sham that has been perpetrated on us for years. Get a hobby, jog, cycle, fish, hunt…quit living vicariously through these wastoids foisted on us by marketers and propagandists. You are spending 4-6 hours on a weekend on a couch slowly coagulating in your own juices...

Robert Kumpel said...


I somewhat agree with you about pro football players. The problem is money--too much of it. When Steve Young signed with the LA Express of the USFL in 1984 for a four-year 40 million dollar contract, I was flabbergasted. That kind of money--for a mere four years' work--was just unbelievable.

I was a huge Chargers fan (living in San Diego) so I read the book by former Charger's owner Gene Klein called "First Down and a Billion". I was shocked to find that every NFL team hires private detectives to follow problem players and quietly keep them out of jail and their names out of the papers when they get in trouble. The last straw was reading an interview with Defensive End Leslie O'Neal, who boasted that he didn't get ahead by "kissing butt". I realized I was wasting a lot of time watching a lot of players who were not worthy of my time and attention. Maybe they can be paid millions for playing a game, albeit a dangerous game, but I DECIDED I WOULD NO LONGER CONTRIBUTE to the farce. The number of problem players has escalated logarithmically since the 1980's and the police blotter is full of NFL player names, many of whom are thugs, who can't stay out of jail for two weeks straight. The NFL once had a policy of drafting players who graduated from college. Now they don't even bother with the pretense of that--they'll take anyone good enough to play, even if they just came out of the juvenile authority camp.

It is outrageous to think that a player like Paul Hornung had to sit out a year as punishment for gambling, yet we have players committing violent crimes who are back on the field just a few weeks after arrest. We've even have NFL players arrested and charged with murder!

What is even more ridiculous is the NFL itself. There have always been rogues in the NFL, but even the bad-guy players had an underlying concept of decency and they knew the fans were paying their salary. Now the NFL has all these ridiculous rules about keeping jerseys tucked in and socks pulled up to protect the "brand", but they continue to allow criminals, drug-users and felons to take the field and do their cuddly public service ads for the United Way. It's a whitewash job all the way. If daily Massgoer Vince Lombardi were alive today, he'd quit from embarrassment.

These guys are making way too much money and most are horrible examples for young people. If you want to waste your time admiring them and enabling this dysfunctional overpriced nonsense, fine. Just count me out. I might look at a game if I'm visiting someone's house, but I have been effectively NFL-free since 1986 and I don't miss it a bit.

Robert Kumpel said...

I should add that I also don't waste my time on the college game either. Many of those players are barely enrolled in any meaningful curriculum and they are just the farm teams for the NFL.

Daniel said...

Athletes, actors, musicians, writers, politicians, even priests are imperfect people, with wide ranges of human behavior in every group. We follow them to appreciate what they are, not for what they aren't.

And if you spend your life searching for perfection and spewing venom at those you find wanting, you'll spend a lot of time jogging by yourself.

Enjoy the Super Bowl!

Robert Kumpel said...

You are right Daniel, inasmuch as none of them are perfect and I certainly don't have any desire to spew venom, as you say, so perhaps my remarks are excessively intemperate. What bothers me is the farce that so many of us have been sold about what professional athletics supposedly is contrasted with the ugly reality of how brutal and duplicitous it is in actuality. It's interesting too that you group entertainers in with this group of "community leaders" who have disappointed us: Essentially athletes have become entertainers and are paid entertainer salaries. Most of us recognize what a farce the entertainment industry is and we have much lower expectations from actors, singers and the like. But we are still being told how "wonderful" professional athletes are, when more and more of them are anything but. These are all people, all doing their jobs and there are good and bad in all groups. However, I do think, that while it is unrealistic to expect anyone to be perfect, some high profile people should be held to a higher standard.

Daniel said...

Robert, perhaps I was brought up cynical, but I haven't thought professional athletes were "wonderful" "community leaders" since I was 12. What they are is people who work very hard for large companies that make great gobs of money. If athletes' salaries disgust you, look up what the networks pay each NFL team to show their games. And of course, people will pay $100, $200 or more just to go. Why shouldn't the guys who risk concussions and crippling injuries get their share? I am more troubled by the corporate manipulators who corrupt our government, take giant tax breaks, stick it to us all, move jobs overseas and won't pay people at a Wal Mart or a McDonald's a decent living wage with decent benefits. They'll take in billions instead of millions. But it's easier to gripe about the football players; they work under the bright lights instead of in the shadows.

Gene said...

Daniel, you don't get it, but you never will.

Robert Kumpel said...


While I won't jump on the "capitalism-is-all-bad-and-greedy" bandwagon, I will give you this: I find many of the NFL owners as obnoxious as the players. They are the ones who orchestrate the entire charade whilst they charge obscene amounts of money for the right to watch their product and license their product's souvenirs. Even if no one showed up for the games, it wouldn't matter, because 32 owners split BILLIONS (not millions) between themselves just for the network rights. They pay the detectives and PR hacks to keep the clean image for their players and they enable. And their obsession with keeping gambling out of the NFL scheme is insane. If we were honest, we would admit that people bet on football games all the time. If they legalized it, the NFL could take the "vig" and actually do something good with it, like donate a large portion to charity.

The only thing more obnoxious than big-time professional sports is award shows--don't even get me started.

George said...

Professional and college football today is much to much as characterized in some of the above comments.

Back in the 1980's though came a story of how it should be. To be sure, this is an extraordinary example which harkens back to a time when there were true scholar-athletes.

Richard Tardits was a rugby player from Biarritz,France who was a member on the French junior national team. While visiting a family in Augusta,Ga., he decided to go up to Athens to try out for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. From what I remember, one reason he decided to do this is that unlike American academic institutions, French academe did not offer 'athletic" scholarships. Coach Vince Dooley was impressed and decided to give him a chance, even though his only knowledge of American football was from books and videos.
He surpassed expectations by working his way into the starting defensive line. He would eventually make the All Southeastern conference team and graduate in three years with dual degrees. He then went on to become a member of the New England Patriots where he played for three years as a linebacker. He then went on to play for the United States rugby team for six years, helping the team to the 1999 World Cup.

Le Sack